Though Atlantic honcho Jerry Wexler didn't know shit about country music when he decided to start up a Nashville division, he made a wise choice in signing Willie Nelson to launch the operation. As it turned out, Nelson's tenure with the label lasted only 18 months, but in that time the Red-Headed Stranger recorded two groundbreaking albums that stand as career high points. Both 1973's outlaw classic Shotgun Willie recorded by Arif Mardin over four days in New York and 1974's conceptual follow-up Phases And Stages , which deals with the aftermath of a divorce from the perspective of both parties, split over two sides of an album, are remastered with a load of great previously unreleased session outtakes for Rhino's snazzy Complete Atlantic Sessions box. It comes packaged with the 1974 concert document Live At The Texas Opry House,on which Nelson cuts loose on Whiskey River, Me And Paul, Bloody Mary Morning and Truck Drivin' Man, bringing together hippies and hayseeds under one roof in Austin.
Deep Dusko, Ace Ahmed
Props to collector/dealer and Mind/Comet label boss Manu Boubli for expanding on the excellent Vibe! series of compilations and now reissuing long-sought-after rare groove and deep jazz albums from the RCA/BMG archives. The latest essentials are the Slavic Mood album by trumpeter Dusko Gojkovic (aka Goykovich) - a superb set of modal movers and soulful ballads à la Swinging Macedonia originally released in small numbers on the Italian Vista label in 75 - and Ahmed Abdul-Malik 's enchanting East Meets West album from 1959, which brilliantly incorporates Middle Eastern rhythms, textures and modes in a "new thing" jazz context while happily avoiding the corny exoticism typical of the period. Both are well worth tracking down online.
Black Jazz score
When Paul Acevedo over at swank new Slinky Music (442 Queen West, 416-603-2600) came across a notice on the Black Jazz label website (www. blackjazz.com) that the legendary spiritual jazz operation was claiming that the Soul Jazz label's The Best Of Black Jazz comp wasn't entirely legit, he called up Black Jazz boss James Hardge Jr. and ordered all the CD titles currently available. So last week I picked up crisp-sounding master-tape-sourced reissues of Doug & Jean Carn 's uplifting Revelation, Walter Bishop Jr. 's seriously deep Keeper Of My Soul and the Awakening 's magnificent Hear, Sense And Feel album for $18.99 apiece. Not only is that a deal, but you won't find these discs anywhere else in town. Grab 'em while you can.